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An alternative provider means any provider of higher education courses that:

  • does not receive annual funding through the UK funding councils
  • does not receive any other form of direct annual public funding (for example, from a local authority, or the Secretary of State for Education)
  • is not a further education college. 

Can I access government loans and grants? 

Students at alternative providers can only access government loans and grants if their course at the provider has been ‘designated’. 

To be designated the provider that runs these courses needs to meet certain criteria set out by the Government. In particular, they need to prove to Government that:

  • teaching quality at the institution meets minimum standards
  • the institution’s financial health is secure. 

This means that, if the Government has designated a course, the student can feel confident in the quality of its teaching and the immediate future of the institution.

Courses at alternative providers are designated each year by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. We expect this annual process to be complete by early 2016.

How much can I access?

Alternative providers are not regulated in quite the same way as publicly funded providers and this means there are some important differences for students. 

Students on designated courses at alternative providers can access student support in the same way as they could at a publicly funded provider. But there is a £6,000* limit on course fee loans and any amount charged above this level has to be met from the student’s personal finances. 

The Government – the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – is ultimately responsible for regulating alternative providers. 

General information on what HEFCE does for students can be found in the dedicated section of our website.

* Higher Education is a devolved matter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Students domiciled in those nations should note that different rules and funding limits may apply for students from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. More information can be found at Student Awards Agency Scotland, Student Finance Wales and Student Finance Northern Ireland.

Page last updated 28 October 2015